Top 5 Abdominal Exercises

If there's anything that I absolutely hate it's abdominal exercises that either take way too long to do, have you get down on the floor for any length of time or just simply doing boring old setups FOREVER!  While all ab exercises are great, doing endless sets of crunches and setups is just plain boring once you've gotten to a certain point in your training.

Remember the goal in training is generally to get stronger and gain more muscle.   The abdominals shouldn't be an exception.

These muscles have to be stressed and exercised with enough intensity to get strong as well.  Simply doing tons of setups and crunches won't get those muscles any extra benefit other than enhancing their overall muscular endurance my doing tons and tons of direct abdominal work.  AND you can't directly burn belly fat with abdominal exercises, sorry folks.  Doesn't happen!

The Top Five Abdominal / Oblique Exercises

Reverse Crunches with a cable or band resistance

The reverse crunch works the entire abdominals from a great angle that enhances the lower abdominal wall and forces a much better contraction throughout the range of motion; however, for most people the body weight version gets too easy, very quickly and often involves more of a rocking motion than actually having to contract the abdominals hard to get through the movement.

By adding external resistance you overcome this difficulty and make the movement more beneficial as an overload on the abs.

You can increase the intensity very simply by adjusting the stack, performing them on a decline bench or utilizing a band for more tension.

Incline Bench Russian Twist

This exercise enhances the traditional floor Russian twist by pinning the legs so you can twist with full control and  really increase the stress on the obliques.  You can also increase the intensity by either adding more weight, increasing your inclination on the bench or getting the arms further away from the body or adding a pattern of movement while rotating.

**Special care should be given to this exercise for those with lower back problems who may need a very gradual inclination on the bench and focus on not over twisting.  It should be a very short rotation from about 10pm to 2pm on the clock face.**

Hanging Knee Raises

A great overall exercise for the abdominals that engages the upper body and grip strength, while allowing the abdominals and hip flexors to bring the legs or knees up as high as possible.

This exercise has numerous modifications and can be done slow or fast depending upon the goal.  You can increase difficulty simply by straightening the legs, lowering and raising the legs slower, or by adding some external resistance on the ankles or between the knees.

By far the best abdominal exercise in my opinion.

Commie Twists

A powerful upper body rotation that involves the legs, hips, obliques and upper body together through a full range rotational motion.  This movement is great simply because it's standing and training the body through a rotational movement pattern, which is essential for athletes.

You can be very aggressive with this movement and add additional resistance in the form of bands or added weight on the bar to increase the difficulty.  Also very cardiovascular.

Partial Turkish Get-Ups

A full get up is a great overall core exercise, but limiting the range of motion down to the floor portion enhances shoulder stability while giving you a great overall stimulus for the obliques and rectus abdominals.

You can load this movement up for a greater overload stimulus to build up those abdominal muscles and shoulder stabilizers.


There you have it; five of the very best abdominal exercises that don't suck and will enhance your whole body, while training the abdominals hard!  Remember we're here to get strong, lean and get some serious muscle, not be able to do 1000 sit-ups.

Because no one ever asks you how many sit-ups you can do!

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Jess Howland

Jesse "Captain Smash" Howland is the owner of SMASH’s Strength Lab, which offers targeted personal training to reach a variety of fitness and physique goals. A natural bodybuilder, competitive powerlifter, certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach, Jesse is often the go-to resource for personal training Ottawa. He studied Exercise Science at Oregon State University and even trained at the world famous Gold's Gym. He's a former US Army Captain with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a former blog writer at Veterans Fitness Career College, and former Chief Executive Officer at U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). His workouts and personal training are army-inspired to help reach your weightloss, athletic, or physique goals.